The Power of Teams

Building and leading Superteams

At the Institute we define a Superteam as one which combines diverse talent and is unleashed by great culture and governance to achieve outstanding results. We have taken ideas about Superteams from the sports field and adapted them to investment organisations, where many of the principles are similar. Indeed, just like sport, investment is fundamentally a human-talent endeavour.

We have observed that in the shift of knowledge and power from the individual to the collective, the investment industry has increasingly preferred teams over stars and has developed a dependency on these teams’ collective intelligence. However, it’s our assessment that investment organisations need to focus more on the important dynamics of teamwork and team thought, or cognitive diversity, as part of building their collective intelligence. From our extensive research into organisational culture, honed during the Power of Culture study, we’ve concluded that the critical starting place for building a Superteam should be with diversity. The full form of diversity, with equity and inclusion added. This approach, with belonging and group identity embedded into its cultural bedrock, makes the best of an organisation’s cognitive diversity. And can transform a team, through stronger culture and higher levels of trust, from being just promising into a high-potential state.

Building a Superteam is a collaborative effort, as is leading one. In our model, every Superteam is a team of leaders in which influencing and being influenced is distributed. While there are individuals whose leadership contribution to the team is large, enabling others to contribute is seen as more important. In addition, the team draws on different styles, with each playing a part and helping to establish the leadership configuration.

A Superteam would be incomplete without adding the craft of governance. This requires the building of frameworks, underpinned by explicit beliefs and principles, for critical thinking and to support decisions. Frameworks also help to develop a collective-leadership mindset which enables accurate judgement, accountability and consistency. Good governance provides the essential rigour to turn the sum-of-parts potential into an exceptional Superteam.

But a Superteam will not be sustainable if it delivers exceptionally strong results without also providing exceptionally rewarding experiences for team members. Much like in sport, ‘getting into the zone’ is not only the reward, it is also a prerequisite for regular winning.

The Power of Teams (TPOT) project

The project will explore best-practice for teams aiming to achieve exceptional results through effective engagement and decision making and by maximising the full potential of the team’s cognitive diversity and collective intelligence. It will explore the role of leadership in building Superteams, within the context of a changing world of work, and evolve a range of practical tools. The self-assessment process will help identify pathways to best practice and distinctive principles for innovation.

Team assessment, composition and scope

These concepts and the practice of Superteams will be shared with the participating team, usually an organisations leadership team (or that which could benefit from operating along Superteams’ lines), through a short survey and followed by an assessment report, including dashboard.

A typical participant team would comprise 7-12 people who have significant management and decision-making responsibility. The scope of the project incorporates how teams align with best practice in five main areas:

  1. Cognitive Diversity – competencies based on knowledge and skills and values and life experiences integrated
  2. Inclusion – create culture of equality of voice using conversation rotation, polling and 1-2-1 engagement
  3. Trust – commitment to trust as a critical value; focus on building trust and ways to benefit from trust
  4. Framework – beliefs and principles as fundamental scaffolding for critical thinking and to support decisions
  5. Rigour – effective decisions from accurate judgement, team accountability, growth and socialisation mindset.
Assessment process and resource allocation

Participant teams will follow a three-step process requiring around 2.5 hours of commitment per person:

  1. Pre-workshop survey to explore the five areas (above) and how innovation connects with these (10-15 mins)
  2. TAI facilitated workshop (90 -120 mins) to cover:
    • Context and views on team best practice
    • Assessment of survey results
    • Leadership styles and models
    • Superteam target states and roadmaps
  3. TAI writes up key findings from the workshop (10-15 mins reading).
Benefits of participation

By participating, we believe teams will be TRIED around their discipline today and will be empowered to TEST their edge for tomorrow. Participants will also be introduced to systems leadership which emphasises co-creation, longer-term views, wider perspectives and collective responsibility. They will also have access to a suite of practical tools to help implement Superteams concepts.

Discipline today

Trust – do team members feel personally and collectively accountable for team efforts?
Rigour – is there a practical appreciation of what great work and ‘flow’ looks like and feels like?
Inclusion – is there clear and compelling ownership and recital of team role and purpose?
Engagement – does the team keep checking-in on its progress and reflect on its accomplishments and
Diversity – does the team appreciate its diversity and exploit its additive benefits?

Edge tomorrow

Training – are all the team members jointly committed to upskilling? Growth mindset a core value,
coaching a core competency
Exploring – is time spent exploring different ways of working using diverse perspectives and
processes? Testing new models for when old models fade
Scaffolding – is the team investing in stronger frameworks for critical thinking and decisions? Shared
working principles and scenario planning are essential
Trust – is the team investing in building and nourishing trust and social capital. The critical need for
deeper connections, safer space and better networks

The Thinking Ahead Institute is a not-for-profit research and innovation member group and we are requesting project subscriptions of US$15,000 to cover our costs. Participation for members is included in their Institute subscriptions.

For more information please enquire here.

Further reading

The power of culture whitepaper 

This whitepaper builds on the The impact of culture on institutional investors research and contains the findings of The power of culture study, which involved 15 asset managers and asset owners. These leader organisations joined the study in various ways to better understand their own cultural signature and leadership, where they sit on a spectrum and how they could sharpen their own competitive edge

The impact of culture on institutional investors

Culture is a unique ingredient in the struggle for competitive advantage among institutional investment organisations. There are ways for culture to be managed and developed over time but it will take focus, patience, leadership and process.
This paper discusses the factors and strategies for the effective implementation of a strong organisational culture.

Value creation and purpose

A further dimension to our sustainability research – as recognition of the need for organisations to better understand the value they create for stakeholders. Understanding what stakeholders value is a critical input into determining an organisation’s vision, strategy and culture. Further reading: Missions Critical: understanding value creation.

Multi-factor diversity

Organisations need to be wary of this and employ deeper thinking on diversity, in all of its forms, whilst employing a sustained and systematic commitment to diversity and its inclusion in all aspects of their business models. Further reading: Multi-factor diversity.

Better decision making

Collective decision-making is a skill that can be more easily nurtured in an organisation with a strong and collaborative culture. Further reading: Better decision -making: a toolkit, contains a list of tools, including how to improve group dynamics for key decision-making meetings.